Fantastical Page 83

“You didn’t do anything to feel guilty for, honey,” Mom said quietly and I looked at her.

“I know that Mom but that doesn’t make me feel any less guilty,” I returned, she bit her lip and I sucked in another painful breath and snatched back that thread, holding onto it for dear life.

Then I said gently, “I’m sorry. I love you guys. I loved you before you went all out to help me, to help Tor, worrying about me. I’ll always love you, no matter what happens. But can I just have an hour to try to forget? Can I just have an hour alone? And then we can all go back to worrying.”

And, for me, go back to the pain… though the pain never left.

Ever.

They all stared at me.

“Just an hour,” I whispered. “Please?”

Mom looked at Dad. Dad looked at Mom. Phoebe studied me.

Then Dad’s eyes came to me. “Fine, sweetheart, one hour. Just one.”

I slouched against the doorjamb such was my relief. “Thanks, Dad.”

He came forward, wrapped a hand around the back of my head, pulled me to him and kissed my forehead. Mom came forward, squeezed my hand and kissed my cheek. Phoebe came forward and gave me a tight hug.

Then they left and they did this without me leaving the doorway.

After I heard the door close, I stared for a long time at my kitchen which was still full of Tor’s food. I was taking my vitamins (of course I was, forcing them down for the baby) and I had been eating. I wasn’t hungry but I was pregnant so I was eating for our child. But Tor bought so f**king much food…

I closed my eyes against the memory. Then I moved to the couch, laid down, grabbed the remote, turned on my stereo and did what I’d done what had to be a million times since he was torn away from me.

I played “Crash into Me” which was already queued up and ready to go.

When it was done, I played it again.

And when it was done, I played it again.

And again.

“Baby,” I whispered to the ceiling, the tears streaming out the sides of my eyes, down my temples, drenching my hair, “come back to me. Find some way to come back to me. I swear, swear, swear, if you come back to me, I won’t ever vex you again. Never again. I won’t be overly friendly to people who are common and I won’t save half-dead birds and I won’t sneak apples to Salem in the stables… or to all the horses in the stables though I don’t think you knew I did that… and I won’t rumple children’s hair. I’ll be the perfect princess. I’ll be your perfect princess. I’ll live every second doing everything I can to make you feel nothing but happiness, to make you want to do nothing but smile your beautiful, beautiful smile. I swear. I swear,” I forced through my blocked throat. “Just come back… honey, come back and crash into me.”

My throat clogged, there came a loud banging at my door and I jumped.

Jeez, that couldn’t have been an hour.

Heaving a sigh, I rolled off the couch, moved to the door and looked out the peephole.

Oh my God!

My heart flew into my throat, I unlocked the door, threw it open and flung myself in Tor’s arms.

“Baby,” I whispered, my arms around his shoulders, my face in his neck, my body pressing into his as I felt his hands, his big, strong fingers close around my hips. “Honey, oh God, I missed you. God, baby,” I moaned in his throat.

“Cora?” his beautiful voice sounded, I pulled my face from his neck, moved my hands to either side of his head and then pulled him to me, pressing my mouth to his, I slid my tongue inside and I kissed him. Burrowing deep into his body, holding onto his head tight, I kissed him with everything I had.

His arms closed around me, he shuffled me into the apartment while still kissing me and I vaguely felt and heard him close the door with his foot.

I slid my hands to his neck and pulled away, looking into his gorgeous, light blue eyes.

“Let’s go to bed. Right now. Hurry, I need you, honey. Like our first time, just like then, I need you now,” I whispered frantically, wanting him, needing to be connected to him, as close as I could get. I was moving backwards, trying to take him with me but his body locked and he held firm.

Then he spoke.

“Jesus, babe, what’s got into you? Two weeks ago you blow me off and now you’re all over me. What the f**k?”

I yanked out of his arms, took two steps back, my eyes scanning his face.

No scar.

Not Tor.

Noc.

I closed my eyes and dropped my head so my face was in my hands.

Not Tor.

Noc.

Bloody hell! I was going to start crying again.

I was right. I started crying again. The tears came back, the pain came back and my shoulders started heaving, wracked with my sobs.

“Cora, f**kin’ hell, what –?” Noc asked softly, his arms sliding around me but I tore away from him, moving quickly back two more steps, lifting a hand.

“Stay away from me!” I yelled and his face switched instantly from concern to anger.

“What’s with the multiple personalities, babe?” he asked, crossing his arms on his chest.

I stared at him. God, except for the scar and the words he used, he was the same. The absolute same. Every inch of him, down to his voice.

Pain sliced anew, shredding me inside. I couldn’t take it, I couldn’t endure him being there.

“Get out,” I whispered.

“See, that’s not gonna happen,” he told me, dropped his arms, took a step toward me, I took a step back and he stopped and put his hands to his hips. “You got somethin’ to tell me?” he asked.

“No,” I replied honestly, “I don’t have anything to tell you.”

“Nothin’ about an appointment with an obstetrician and fillin’ a prescription for prenatal vitamins?” he prompted, his jaw hard, his eyes glittering angry.

Oh shit.

He went on, “Babe, I used protection but shit happens and I gotta know if the kid you’re carrying is mine.”

“It isn’t,” I said swiftly.

“That’s interesting since I know you haven’t been with anyone else but me.”

Oh shit.

“Well, you’re wrong, I have,” I returned.

“Hard to do when I got your ass under surveillance,” he told me and my mouth dropped open. “You’re eight weeks pregnant and I know some other guy was around a couple weeks ago but other than that, it was you, your shopping, your takeaway, your games, your crazy-assed driving that nearly killed pedestrians every time you got behind the f**kin’ wheel… and me.”

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